Even if you’ve already been to an IEP meeting for your child, it can still be a nerve-wracking process. You want to get the most you can for your child to meet her needs. But even if you are well prepared, entering a room filled with educators and other professionals can feel like you’re on someone else’s turf. And that can be challenging. The good news is there’s one simple word that can make the IEP meeting a better one and deliver the best results for your child. That word – with acknowledgement to Aretha Franklin – is R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
There’s some overlap, but let’s break this down into three categories of respect.
1. Respect for your child
- You are an expert about your child. Share what you know and try to get the other members of the IEP team to see her as you do.
- Be prepared and come with thoughts and information in writing. This can be especially important if your child isn’t attending the meeting; know how your child feels and be her advocate. Make sure that her strengths and interests are represented at the meeting.
- It’s ok to push back against the other people in the room, but show respect for your child by making this about results and not about you winning an argument. Rather than being combative, say something like, “If that won’t work, what can we do instead?” as a way to push the conversation toward getting the results you want for your child.
2. Respect for the team.
- It’s simple, but be on time, learn people’s names, and try to be a positive presence in the room.
- Understand that, just as you do, everyone in the room has a unique perspective on your child. Know that they also have your child’s best interests at heart, so be a good listener, a good team-member, and be open to learning about new strategies that could help your child.
- If you get angry or upset during the meeting (and you might), don’t turn it into a war; ask to take a break so you can cool down or ask to schedule another meeting to follow up. Just as nothing good can come from children fighting in the classroom, nothing good can come from adults fighting in an IEP meeting.
3. Respect for yourself.
- As per above, remember that you are an expert on your child; stay open to other perspectives while at the same time knowing that your perspective is unique and essential.
- If you don’t understand something that’s happening in the room, ask questions – there are no dumb questions in an IEP meeting, only people who feel badly afterwards because they didn’t ask questions.
- Don’t be shy! As long as you’re being respectful, everything you say and do is going to be a positive contribution to your child’s IEP meeting.